Planning on visiting Teotihuacan? Here is all you need to know about planning a Teotihuacan day trip from Mexico City!
Located just an hour outside of Mexico City, the ancient city of Teotihuacan was once the largest city in Mesoamerica. Much of Teotihuacan’s history is shrouded in mystery – no one really knows who lived there, and what caused its demise. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City is a popular day trip.
It is a fascinating place, and is home to two massive pyramids, one of which is among the largest in the world. I was absolutely in awe of them, and it is definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Visiting Teotihuacan is a must-do on any Mexico City itinerary.
Read on for some tips for visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City!
Teotihuacan History + Fun Facts
– At its prime, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the Americas during pre-Hispanic times, spanning over 20 square kilometers, and housing almost 200,000 inhabitants. It is also said to have been at least the 6th largest city in the world at the time.
– Teotihuacan is almost 2000 years old – it is said to have been built around 100 A.D. (construction is said to have started in the B.C. years), and was the cultural, economic, and military center of Mesoamerica until its collapse around 650 A.D. By 750 A.D., the city was completely uninhabited.
– No one really knows why the city collapsed – some theories are a fire, famine, or an invasion. No one also really knows who built the city of Teotihuacan, but the site was discovered by the Aztecs in the 1400s, who gave it its name, which means “the place where gods were created.”
– Teotihuacan was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
– Not all of the pyramids at the site have been uncovered yet – some of the smaller ones are still covered in dirt and archaeologists are still working on excavating those sites.
What You Need to Know About Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City
– Teotihuacan sits about 50 kilometers (~31 miles) out of Mexico City. It takes about an hour to get there from the city; the drive back is slightly longer because of routing.
– Visiting Teotihuacan costs 70 pesos (~$4 USD). This includes admission into the archaeological site and the museums. There is an additional 45 peso charge should you wish to take video footage.
– Tripods are not allowed (I had to get a bit creative to get photos of myself here – I also used this selfie stick tripod).
– You can leave and re-enter the site throughout the day. There are 5 entrances/exits (the bus to Teotihuacan drops you off at the main entrance on the southern side of the site).
– The site is open every day from 9am – 5pm.
– You can easily spend the entire day there, but hitting the main highlights (and stopping for lunch) will take about 4-5 hours. I was there for about 3 hours, and then had a leisurely lunch.
How to Get to Teotihuacan from Mexico City
Option 1: Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City by Bus
This is the cheapest way to get to Teotihuacan, and the best way to get there, in my opinion. By finding your own way there, you can create Teotihuacan day trip from Mexico City on your own terms, and spend as little or as much time visiting Teotihuacan as you desire.
I found taking the bus to Teotihuacan to be fairly easy and straightforward. I was a bit nervous about this since I was on a solo trip to Mexico City, and I tend to often be confused and directionally-challenged, but even I found it to be a simple and easy experience. I also found the buses (and the bus station) to be comfortable and safe (which was also part of my concerns).
The bus to Teotihuacan leaves out of the Terminal Central del Norte bus station. I took an Uber there from my hotel in the Centro Historico in the city, but it is also easily accessible via Metro (and only costs 5 pesos), and many people recommend it to get to the bus station.
If taking the metro, take the yellow line (line 5) towards Politécnico and get off at the Autobuses del Norte station – the bus terminal is directly across the street. I actually found that getting an Uber back from the terminal was a bit confusing, so I kind of wish I had just sucked it up and taken the metro back (but then again, see: confused and directionally-challenged self. Sooooo yeahhhh).
Once you get into the bus station, make a left and head towards the sign that says “Puerta 8” (gate 8). Look for the Autobuses Teotihuacan booth and buy a ticket for Los Piramides. A round-trip ticket costs 100 pesos (~$6 USD). The person who helped me at the ticket booth spoke English.
Buses depart for Teotihuacan from Mexico City every 15-20 minutes. The ticket is timed, but you can catch any departing bus for your return journey. There are food vendors at the terminal if you want to grab a quick bite to eat. There are I was a bit confused as to where the actual bus to Teotihuacan left out of, but I asked one of the employees and he was able to direct me after I showed him my ticket.
The bus to Teotihuacan from Mexico City takes about an hour, depending on traffic, and makes some stops along the way. It is not fancy, but it is clean and comfortable. Sometimes, the driver picks up random vendors along the way. I’ve also read about buses picking up random mariachi bands along the way.
Another thing I found strange was that stopped for a security guard or police officer along the way, who got on board and filmed all of us, before getting back off and sending us off on our way. Apparently, this is pretty common for buses in Latin America.
The bus to Teotihuacan from Mexico City drops you off at Puerta 1, which is by the main entrance. From here, you can buy a ticket into the site. Be sure to purchase before you enter the first gate – tickets won’t be checked until the second gate, but you will have to have purchased them before you enter.
On the way back, go out Puerta 2, and walk through the parking lot to the main road. The last bus departs at around 6 p.m., but be sure to double check to confirm the exact departure. The return journey takes slightly longer than the trip there.
Option 2: Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City on a Guided Tour
If you feel uneasy navigating your own way to visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City, or if you want everything already taken care of for you on a Mexico City day trip, there are many guided day and half-day Teotihuacan tours available. I originally considered doing a tour for the convenience factor, but ended up deciding that I wanted to explore the site on my own terms.
That said, there are no shortage of options for Teotihuacan day tours. Here are some options that may be of interest that I considered when planning my Mexico City to Teotihuacan day trip:
– Early Morning Teotihuacan Tour with Archaeologist– This tour allows you to see the site in the early morning, before it officially opens. You are able to see and learn about the pyramids before the crowds arrive, see the sunrise, and with guidance from a knowledgeable archaeologist.
– Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Tour – Soar above Teotihuacan in a hot air balloon as the sun rises for a unique way to see pyramids. My friend did this one and her photos looked amazing, and I almost booked this one. There is also a day version of this as well.
– Teotihuacan + Guadalupe Shrine Tour – The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the world’s top Catholic pilgrimage sites, and stands just outside of Mexico City. See both of these sites on this combination tour.
Option 3: Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City via Uber or Private Driver
I took a lot of Ubers during my 3 days in Mexico City, so I also considered taking one to Teotihuacan. The fare is ~200 pesos (~$11 USD) each way, but can be higher depending on whether surge pricing is in effect.
Be advised that the best route to Teotihuacan uses toll roads – tell your driver to that it’s okay to take these toll roads (and be sure to have some cash on hand to pay for toll), unless you want a long detour.
One other thing to keep in mind is that there is no Wifi at Teotihuacan, so you must have an international data plan (or hotspot) in order to call an Uber back to the city. Even then, the cell signal there can be spotty. I did see a lot of Ubers clustered waiting around the main entrance, so if you find a strong enough signal, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a car back to the city.
Another option is to hire a private driver to take you to and from the city – this is the most expensive option. Sometimes the driver also doubles as a tour guide. There are private tour packages available from various tour companies. Many hotels in Mexico City also offer this service, so you can also check with the concierge where you are staying.
What to See When Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City
Avenue of the Dead (Calzada de los Muertos)
The Avenue of the Dead is the long avenue that stretches across the entire complex – the entire length of it is about 2 miles. It has some smaller temples scattered along it, and has the Pyramid of the Moon at the end of it. If you walk in through the main entrance, you will walk down the Avenue of the Dead on the way to the Pyramid of the Sun and Moon. Be aware you will be walking up and down a bunch of steps while walking along it – it’s quite a workout!
While walking down it towards the Pyramid of the Moon, you can imagine what life was like back then, and think about all the grand rituals and processions that have taken place here. The best view of it is from the Pyramid of the Moon – definitely take a moment to take it all in from there.
Pyramid of the Sun (Pirámide del Sol)
The Pyramid of the Sun is the largest at Teotihuacan and at 70 meters high and 215 meters tall, is one of the largest pyramids in the world (some say it’s the third largest, although there is some speculation and doubts about this claim). It is a restored pyramid (it was common practice to build over existing structures back in the day), but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
Some other fun facts about the Pyramid of the Sun: it was built without the use of pack animals or metal tools, over 3.6 million cubic feet of bricks were used. It also said to have taken over a century to build. The pyramid held a religious significance, and even today, people flock to the top to celebrate the spring equinox.
The Pyramid of the Sun is one of the few pyramids at which you are allowed to climb to the top, which makes it the highlight of visiting Teotihuacan. Most people head straight here as their first stop when visiting Teotihuacan. I would also recommend heading here first – partially to beat the crowds, but also because you have to climb up 248 steps to the top, which can take a lot out of you. Best to get all that huffing and puffing out of the way first, so you can relax later.
It is the most popular attraction at Teotihuacan, so there will be a line going up the steps. It is definitely quite a workout to get to the top, but I took breaks every so often to catch my breath and enjoy the view.
The view from the top is spectacular and well worth the climb – there are sweeping views of the valleys and mountains, and of the smaller pyramids on the boulevard, and the Pyramid of the Moon. You should definitely stay at the top for a bit to take in the sheer scale of it all. It is absolutely mind-blowing that they did all this so long ago. You can also ponder and imagine what life must have been back then (especially since there is so much mystery surrounding the city).
Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide de la Luna)
The Pyramid of the Moon is the second largest pyramid at the site, and another highlight of visiting Teotihuacan. It sits perpendicular to the Pyramid of the Sun, at the end of the Avenue of the Dead. It is actually the first large structure that was built at Teotihuacan. It was built in stages, and currently stands at 46 meters tall.
Both human and animal sacrifices have been found inside the pyramid – apparently, back in Mesoamerican times, enemies that were captured in battle were often offered as sacrifices. Sacrificial artifacts, such as obsidian and greenstone tools, were also uncovered in the tombs.
You can only climb up about half of the Pyramid of the Moon, but that doesn’t make it any less of an amazing view – you can see the entire Avenue of the Dead, and the surrounding pyramids, along with the Pyramid of the Sun. Keep in mind that the steps here are steeper than the ones at the Pyramid of the Sun – I was more winded going up half of the Pyramid of the Moon than I was going up the entire Pyramid of the Sun (and my legs were so sore the next day).
The Plaza of the Moon, a cluster of 12 smaller pyramid platforms, also stands in front of the Pyramid of the Moon. These served as viewing stages for the city’s residents, to watch the sacrifices and political rituals that took place at the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.
Other Things to See When Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City
Here are some other points of interest at Teotihuacan. I made a beeline for the Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon, since I knew that those were the highlights, but I completely missed the rest of these while visiting Teotihuacan, and I am really regretting it! Moral of the story, do some background reading before you go.
Quetzalcoatl Temple (Temple of the Feathered Serpent)
This is the third largest pyramid at Teotihuacan, and commemorates the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, who was a god of creation, and responsible for the creation of mankind. Apparently, the dedication ceremony for this pyramid included 200 human sacrifices (and 100 sacrifice victims were found when the pyramid was discovered in the 1980s), but anyways…
The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is at the Ciudadela, right when you walk in from the main entrance. It is easily missed if you aren’t looking for it, or know to go there (well duh, since I missed it too). This pyramid is unique because it has ornate serpent carvings on the side of the steps.
Quetzalpapalotl Palace (Temple of the Quetzal Butterfly)
The Quetzalpapalotl Palace is near the Plaza de la Luna, adjacent to the Pyramid of the Moon. Here, you will find a courtyard, as well as some of the most ornate details and artwork in the complex. It is speculated that the palace was used by elites as a site for cooking and rituals.
The building is one of the most well preserved at Teotihuacan. There is extravagant artwork on the walls, and ornately carved pillars with obsidian inlays. Definitely kicking myself that I missed this.
There is also an on-site museum at Teotihuacan. From what I’ve read, the exhibits are in Spanish, but it also displays unique artifacts that were found on the site. There is also a replica of what the site looked like at the height of the city.
What to Eat When Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City
There are vendors throughout the site, selling sandwiches, snacks, and beverages. There are also more food vendors and small restaurants right outside Puerta 2 (across the Pyramid of the Sun). You can also get snacks and beverages at the vendors near the front entrance.
If you are looking for a sit-down meal, a popular option is La Gruta, which sits outside Puerta 5 (near the Pyramid of the Sun), and is a restaurant set inside a volcanic cave. It’s admittedly a bit gimmicky and super touristy. This is where I ate because, well, I wanted to eat inside a volcanic cave (yup, they got me there).
The menu features classic Mexican favorites and pre-Hispanic food. The food is solid, but you really are coming for the atmosphere here – it is magical. It is a bit pricey for the area (menu prices are on-par with American prices), but you are basically paying for the atmosphere. It really is a unique experience.
What to Bring When Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City
– Lots of water – more than you think you need! I had a liter, thinking that was more than enough, but I ended up running out and had to purchase more.
– A hat – It gets hot and there is no shade, so a good hat will come in handy. I traveled with something similar to this hat – both stylish and gave me just the shade I needed!
– Comfortable walking shoes – you will do a LOT of walking, and climbing up stone pyramids is no joke. The steps are uneven and bumpy, so you definitely don’t want to do it in flip-flops or sandals. I brought my running shoes for this, but even a pair of Toms would be a good option.
– An umbrella – The weather can be unpredictable, especially if you are there during rainy season, as I was. When I got there, it was hot and sunny, and it was starting to drizzle by the time I left. Be prepared! This is a good, compact umbrella that is perfect for traveling.
– Sunscreen – Again, see: Teotihuacan is in full sun. I like this sunscreen because I find spraying it to be easier than rubbing it on – plus size is that it comes in a travel size, so I can travel with it in my carry-on. I also use this tinted moisturizer for my face – and this comes in a travel size as well!
More Tips for Visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City
-Arrive as early as possible! This is for two reasons – 1) it tends to get super crowded as the day goes on, and 2) it also tends to get HOT as the day goes on!
– Avoid visiting on a Sunday – admission is free for Mexican residents, and it can get super packed.
– Most museums in Mexico City are closed on Monday, and I found so much conflicting online as to whether or not Teotihuacan is open on Monday. For the record, I went on a Monday, and it was open. This was a perfect day to go, since everything else in the city was closed.
– Keep in mind that Teotihuacan stands at 7500 feet altitude, so climbing up all those steps can leave you feeling a bit winded and out of breath. Take it slow, and take plenty of breaks!
– If you do not wish to book a tour but still want more insight into the history and significance of Teotihuacan, there are licensed guides available for hire at the entrance. This usually costs about 700 pesos ($38 USD), but your bargaining skills will come into play here.
– You will encounter a ton of vendors almost heckling you while trying to hawk souvenirs to you. They can be a bit pushy but just ignore them – acknowledging them makes them more aggressive. Also be prepared for them to constantly make some loud sounds (I’m not even sure how to explain this sound) – this startled me when I first heard it. It is from a whistle, and is supposed to resemble a jaguar’s roar. The items they sell also tend to be fake and expensive. Should you wish to purchase souvenirs, there are souvenirs shops located close to the exit.
– Most of the signs at Teotihuacan are in Spanish. To really get the most out of your visit, I would suggest doing a bit of research before you actually get there to get a bit more context and background information about what you are seeing.
– Check the weather before you go! Also be aware that there is no shade there, so you will be in full sun – prepare accordingly, with plenty of water and sunscreen. It might also start raining randomly, so be prepared.
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Are you interested in visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City? Which pyramid is your favorite?
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